Psst! Keep these secluded destinations hush-hush and enjoy the scenery without the crowds—no passport required.
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Waikiki gets all the people and press; the North Shore, the fame for big waves. But locals head to Oahu’s little-trafficked windward coast. And even fewer make it to this neighborhood beach near Kailua. Bask on sloping white sand bordered by palm trees, then wander to the water. The gentle waves are perfect for an ocean dip.
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Despite all their fame, the Florida Keys are not known for their beaches—except for this slip of a state park. Just before Big Pine Key, pull over for a sublime beach with balmy breezes, coral reefs, and stunning sunsets. The gentle slope and bathwater-temperature seas of Bahia Honda State Park invite wading and world-class snorkeling. You may be in the States, but it sure feels like the Caribbean.
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Go play at “Dirty Bay.” Don’t worry, the beach’s name is just a local reference to the seaweed that washes up during storms. Visitors will find nothing but beige sands and blue skies on the remote southwest coast along Highway 301. Bahia Súcia has a classic Caribbean feel, with scruffy brush giving way to sloping sands running down to azure waters.
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On a summer weekend you’ll see lines of cars parked along Cannon Beach. Keep on driving. Head north into Ecola State Park, and follow a winding road through a Sitka spruce forest. Turn the corner and discover a secluded crescent beach and the Pacific beyond. Great for strolling, finding pretty pieces of driftwood, and checking out tide pools.
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Nothing about Ocracoke is easy. Fans like it that way. Get to the Atlantic and you still need to take a ferry across Pamlico Sound to one of the outermost of the Outer Banks islands. The reward is a summer idyll on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Drive out past the salt marshes on two-lane Highway 12 and find your own bit of sun and sea among the dunes.
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Down a sandy back road in a hidden corner of Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet lies a quiet beach with towering dunes, Atlantic views, and little else. Head toward the historic Atwood-Higgins House, then about a mile to a small parking lot. You’ll have to walk the last several hundred yards, but when you hit the beach, you’ll see it was worth the effort.
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Wander among some of California’s most stunning coastline at this often overlooked state park in San Luis Obispo County. Visitors find secluded coves, pounding surf, and sweeping bluff views along seven miles of shore. And now a new path from the state park’s southern boundary leads to remote Coon Creek Beach.
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Everybody seeks a stretch of sand hidden from the masses. To reach Lumahai Beach on Kauai’s wild and wet North Shore, stop on a bend in the road just up from Hanalei Bay. Follow the steep path down through the trees. The trail ends at a small crescent of sand with a large rock outcropping. It might look familiar. The “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” scene from the movie South Pacific was filmed here.
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San Diego has 70 miles of beaches (and not a bad mile in the bunch), but Windansea gets our nod. It’s a scenic strand with a lyrical name. Smooth sandstone rocks offer private spots to lounge. It’s close enough for a quick trip from downtown, but far enough from the Sea World-fueled hubbub of Mission Bay not to feel touristy.